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Him from my childhood have I known ; and then He was so old, he seems not older now; He travels on, a solitary man, So helpless in appearance, that for him The sauntering horseman-traveller does not throw With careless hand his alms upon the ground, But stops,-that he may safely lodge the coin Within the old man's hat; nor quits him so, But still, when he has given his horse the rein, Watches the aged beggar with a look Sidelong-and half-reverted. She who tends The toll-gate, when in summer at her door She turns her wheel, if on the road she sees The aged beggar coming, quits her work, And lifts the latch for him that he may pass, The post-boy, when his rattling wheels o'ertake The aged beggar in the woody lane, Shouts to him from behind; and, if thus warned The old man does not change his course, the boy Turns with less noisy wheels to the road-side, And passes gently by-without a curse Upon his lips, or anger at his heart. He travels on, a solitary man; His age has no companion. On the ground His eyes are turned, and, as he moves along, They move along the ground; and, evermore, Instead of common and habitual sight Of fields with rural works, of hill and dale, And the blue sky, one little span of earth Is all his prospect. Thus, from day to day, Bow-bent, his eyes for ever on the ground, He plies his weary journey ; seeing still, And seldom knowing that he sees, some straw, Some scattered leaf, or marks which, in one track, The nails of cart or chariot-wheel have left
Impressed on the white road,-in the same line,
But deem not this man useless.-Statesmen! ye Who are so restless in your wisdom, ye Who have a broom still ready in your hands To rid the world of nuisances ; ye proud, Heart-swoll'n, while in your pride ye contemplate Your talents, power, and wisdom, deem him not A burthen of the earth! 'Tis nature's law That none, the meanest of created things, Of forms created the most vile and brute, The dullest or most noxious, should exist Divorced from good-a spirit and pulse of good, A life and soul, to every mode of being Inseparably linked. While thus he
creeps From door to door, the villagers in him Behold a record which together binds Past deeds and offic of charity, Else unremembered, and so keeps alive The kindly mood in hearts which lapse of years, And that half-wisdom half-experience gives, Make slow to feel, and by sure steps resign To selfishness and cold oblivious cares. Among the farms and solitary huts, Hamlets and thinly-scattered villages, Where'er the aged beggar takes his rounds,
The mild necessity of use compels To acts of love ; and habit does the work Of reason ; yet prepares that after-joy Which reason cherishes. And thus the soul, By that sweet taste of pleasure unpursued, Doth find itself insensibly disposed To virtue and true goodness. Some there are, By their good works exalted, lofty minds And meditative, authors of delight And happiness, which to the end of time Will live, and spread, and kindle: even such minds In childhood, from this solitary being, Or from like wanderer, haply have received (A thing more precious far than all that books Or the solicitudes of love can do !) That first mild touch of sympathy and thought, In which they found their kindred with a world Where want and sorrow were. The easy man Who sits at his own door,-and, like the pear That overhangs his head from the green wall, Feeds in the sunshine; the robust and young, The prosperous and unthinking, they who live Sheltered, and flourish in a little grove Of their own kindred ;-all behold in him A silent monitor, which on their minds Must needs impress a transitory thought Of self-congratulation, to the heart Of each recalling his peculiar boons, His charters and exemptions; and, perchance, Though he to no one give the fortitude And circumspection needful to preserve His present blessings, and to husband up · The respite of the seasons, he, at least, And 'tis no vulgar service, makes them felt.
Yet further. – Many, I believe, there are Who live a life of virtuous decency, Men who can hear the decalogue and feel No self-reproach; who of the moral law Established in the land where they abide Are strict observers; and not negligent, In acts of love to those with whom they dwell, Their kindred, and the children of their blood. Praise be to such, and to their slumbers peace! But of the poor man ask, the abject poor ; Go, and demand of him, if there be here In this cold abstinence from evil deeds, And these inevitable charities, Wherewith to satisfy the human soul ? No-man is dear to man; the poorest poor Long for some moments in a weary life When they can know and feel that they have been, Themselves, the fathers and the dealers out Of some small blessings; have been kind to such As needed kindness; for this single cause, That we have all of us one human heart. Such pleasure is to one kind being known, My neighbour, when with punctual care, each week, Duly as Friday comes, though pressed herself By her own wants, she from her store of meal Takes one unsparing handful for the scrip Of this old mendicant, and, from her door Returning with exhilarated heart, Sits by her fire, and builds her hope in heaven.
Then let him pass, a blessing on his head !
The good which the benignant law of heaven